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Justify romps in Belmont; 13th Triple Crown champ

13 June 2018
Justify romps in Belmont; 13th Triple Crown champ

Prior to American Pharoah's triumph, the drought between Triple Crown winners had been on unprecedented 37 years, when Affirmed bested Alydar in all three Triple Crown races in 1978.

Belmont Stakes hopeful Gronkowski pauses before working out at Belmont Park, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. Gronkowski is one of 10 horses racing in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday.

It takes a great horse to win those two races, but it takes a legendary performer to win the Triple Crown. Baffert said he felt confident, not stressed, during the run-up to the race.

"He just came on there, and he broke every curse there was", he said.

The previous horse to complete the Triple Crown had been American Pharoah in 2015, who was also trained by Bob Baffert.

The awesome comet that is Justify proved that, bursting on the scene to win the Kentucky Derby, surviving the fog to win the Preakness, then leading wire-to-wire over the mile-and-a-half on Saturday to become just the sport's 13th Triple Crown champion.

The Belmont Stakes is the last of the Triple Crown races, after the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Baffert joined Fitzsimmons as the only trainers to oversee two Triple Crown winners. This means that Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935) were all retroactively added to the list.

Indeed it did. American Pharoah was a seasoned colt who followed the typical path to his date with destiny. He won his first three races by a combined 19 lengths, making trainer Bob Baffert a believer.

"It's been the longest, quickest journey", a hoarse-sounding Baffert said as light rain fell outside Justify's barn.

But Justify, like all the great thoroughbreds, found "another gear", Baffert said.

The chestnut colt, ridden by 52-year-old jockey Mike Smith, was first out of the gate and never gave up the lead.

Find out what the race's participants had to say after the 2018 Belmont Stakes. "He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven". The best bet for watching the race is on NBC Sports Live here. I can't describe the emotions going through my body right now.

Purchased for $500,000, Justify earned $800,000 for his Belmont win, giving him $3,798,000 in his brief career.

The 4-5 favorite handled the 1.5-mile distance easily, and though runner-up Gronkowski was less than 2 lengths back, Justify never looked in danger of losing.

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses. At that point, Smith asked Justify for a bit more speed.

Baffert will saddle a second horse: 30-1 shot Restoring Hope.

The second-place finisher, who was named after New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski, rallied from the back of the pack to finish an impressive second, and Hofburg finished third. "He was able to go ahead and get a comfortable lead and let him get in that rhythm of his".